Friday, February 1, 2008

The SEC: Up is down, and Vandy is really down

Who is getting it done in the SEC in basketball this year? There are a few surprises, a few disappointments, and a few real stinkers.

First, the standings:

Overall Standings:

# Team Conference Overall
W L Pct W L Pct

East-1 Tennessee 5 1 0.833 18 2 0.9
No surprise here. They are the odds-on favorite
East-1 Florida 5 1 0.833 18 3 0.857
Gators expected to be good, but not this good. Favorable early schedule so far, though.
East-3 Kentucky 3 2 0.6 9 9 0.5
Maybe about right, but their overall record stinks.
East-4 Georgia 2 3 0.4 11 7 0.611
About to get worse, most likely.
East-5 Vanderbilt 2 4 0.333 17 4 0.81
What a surprise, but their schedule does get easier.
East-5 South Carolina 2 4 0.333 10 10 0.5
About right. Could move up.
West-1 Mississippi State 5 1 0.833 14 6 0.7
Significantly better than expected. The remainder is a bit tougher, but not that much. Can win the West
West-2 Arkansas 4 2 0.667 15 5 0.75
About right, but beating MSU has them on the move up.
West-3 Mississippi 3 3 0.5 16 3 0.842
Surprised early, but having road trouble. Still have to go to Arkansas, Kentucky, and Alabama.
West-4 Auburn 2 4 0.333 12 7 0.632
Maybe better than expected, but likely to get worse.
West-5 Alabama 1 5 0.167 12 9 0.571
WTF? Loss to Georgia on the road. They still have to play the tough road games.
West-5 LSU 1 5 0.167 8 12 0.4
I'm not sure I expected them to be this bad.

Right now, The SEC has 4 teams in the AP top 25 with one on the verge, and 5 in the coach's poll. The SEC currently ranks 5th in the RPI just below the Big East. The ACC is on top of that measurement. As of right now, you would have to figure that the SEC will get 5 teams into the tournament, although six is a real possibility if things don't change too much at the top.

Up until Wednesday, the Mississippi State Bulldogs were looking very strong, but that stopped abruptly at Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday. Joswalt at RazorBlog has the details:

Jarvis Varnado can't block shots while he's sitting on the bench.

He also won't block them if he's under the basket and the other team is shooting 3-pointers, and Arkansas made more than enough perimeter shots for a 78-58 win over Varnado and Mississippi State (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today) on Wednesday night.

Vanado has been a holy terror this year, leading the nation in blocked shots. But if you stay away from him or keep him on the bench, he can't help, and the Razorbacks defeated a rising MSU team by 20 points. Arliss at Mississippi State Basketball is a man of few words about this one:
That was ugly! Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. I'm glad that one was over. It makes me sick to talk of it anymore. Lets move on and rebound against the Vols on Saturday. Go Dawgs!!!
Sometimes, it's better to forget the bad ones and just look forward. MSU has been tough this year, and they get to find out just how tough against the Vols in the Hump this weekend. A quick look at the Bulldogs' turnover statistics (15.2/game) against a team that is better than anyone in the league at prying the ball away doesn't give me a whole lot of confidence in the Dawgs' chances. Not only that, Chris Lofton is on something of a tear lately, and as joswalt said above, Varnado can't block three pointers.

But the Dawgs have the 5th best defensive points/possession statistic in the entire USA, and are holding teams to 31% 3-point shooting (well, except for Arkansas). But the Vols get a lot of their offense from turning people over in the backcourt and getting layups. If that happens, MSU is in deep doo-doo.

Vanderbilt is surely tanking at the moment. They lost ugly Wednesday to Ole Miss, and are the Commodores worried? Well, Bobby O'Shea at Vanderbilt Sports Line says that Vandy fans may have reached a good time to ... panic!
I know it's hard to tell over the radio, but something about the way this team is playing leads me to believe we are either lazy or dumb. It's possible it could be both. Still, I am now giving VSL Nation permission to panic.
A perusal of the stats finds much more than rebounding as an issue. Vandy's offensive efficiency was an incredibly dismal 89.2, and their effective FG% was only 42.8%! Butt-ugly, that is the term for Vandy's offense, and without their offense, they are way vulnerable. Shan Foster, who was shooting a remarkable 50% from 3 as little as two weeks ago, has gone 9/35 in the last 3 games for a whopping 28%. Won't get it done. No way. Andrew Ogilvy, who was dominant in the paint up until the Kentucky game, has gone from a 65+% shooter to 37% from the floor the last 4 games. The object of the game is still to put the ball in the basket, guys.

Parish Alford asks, was it good D or bad O:
Good D or Bad O: A little of both I think. I saw Ole Miss work hard at contesting shots, but I also saw Vanderbilt get back, get feet set and get some good looks that were just missed.
On the whole I think shots were contested better. Even a few 3s the Commodores hit were made over defenders charging out and hands extended.
Having not seen the game, I can't speak to his point authoritatively, but I can say this -- when we look at the stats over the last 4 games for Vandy's offense, I think there is a much stronger argument for bad O than good D. No knock on Ole Miss, but Vandy has been cranking out some stinkers lately. But then again, you don't get to 89% OE without some help.